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Wolf-hunting buffer around Denali National Park denied by game officials

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

The Alaska Board of Game has denied a petition to reinstate a no-hunting buffer zone for wolves around Denali National Park and Preserve.

The emergency petition, filed by wildlife advocates in order to protect the park’s Grant Creek pack, was created after the pack failed to produce any pups in 2012, after two of its breeding females died during the spring.

Kristy Tibbles, executive director of the Board of Game, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that “the department did not have any biological concerns regarding the wolves in that area,” and six of the seven board members she was able to reach decided not to convene an emergency hearing on the issue. The LA Times reports:

The issue has consequences for tourism -- viewing wolves in the wild is one of the premier attractions at the 6-million-acre park -- but state officials say a ban on hunting and trapping on the edge of the park is not necessary to protect the substantial numbers of wolves that still roam the park.

A buffer zone of 122 square miles existed outside the park for about a decade, but in 2010, the board canceled the zone as wildlife advocates pushed for an expansion of it. The issue will not be revisited until 2016, board members say.

Conservationists who advanced the petition said the wolves in the park are at their lowest population in years, with about 70 wolves in nine packs.

“It is a shame that a small group of gubernatorial appointees is allowed to determine -- behind closed doors and with no public input -- the fate of such a treasured national resource,” Tina Brown, president of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said in a statement.

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